Rwanda's Supreme Court has backed the parliament's proposal to amend the constitution to allow president Paul Kagame to run for a third term in 2017's presidential election. The court dismissed the lawsuit brought by the opposition Democratic Green Party (DGPR), which asked the court to halt any constitutional change.
Paul Kagame's political career
Kagame became the leader of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) armed wing, the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), as the country had descended into a civil war which then sparked a genocide in which an estimated 1 million people – mainly Tutsi and moderate Hutu – were killed in three months.
In the aftermath of the genocide, Kagame served as vice president and minister of defence until 2000, when he became president after being elected by government ministers and the national assembly.
The RPF became a political party while its armed wing was renamed the Rwandan Patriotic Army (now the Rwandan Defence Forces).
In 2003, Rwanda adopted a new constitution replacing a transitional one, and Kagame was re-elected as president. He won the election again in 2010.
"The petition... has no basis and is hereby dismissed," Chief Justice Sam Rugege said, according to news agency AFP. "Denying the free will of the people to choose how they are governed is not democratic, rather it is the opposite," the judge said, referring to the fact that many Rwandans are believed to be in favour of the constitutional change following a national consultation launched by the government.
The consultation was launched in July after the Rwandan parliament backed the plan to amend article 101, which allows the president to be in power for two seven-year-long terms. 3.7 million Rwandans - about 70% of those on the electoral roll – are believed to have signed a petition asking the parliament to amend presidential terms.
However, some have alleged that many Rwandans were forced to sign the petition. DGPR's President Frank Habineza told IBTimes UK: "We are going to appeal and start a no-change campaign." He added that his party still stands against the amendment of the constitution to allow Kagame to run again.
In a previous interview with IBTimes UK, Habineza said: "We don't support the change of the constitution, but we are not surprised [that this happened] because many people have been protecting this move. Changing the constitution will not only undermine the democratic process but also the peaceful transfer of power."
Rwanda Constitution - Article 101
"The President of the Republic is elected for a term of seven years renewable only once. Under no circumstances shall a person hold the office of President of Republic for more than two terms."
Rwanda Constitution - Article 193
"The power to initiate amendment of the constitution is vested concurrently in the President of the Republic upon the proposal of the cabinet and each Chamber of Parliament upon a resolution passed by a two thirds majority vote of its members.
"The passage of a constitutional amendment requires a three quarters majority vote of the members of each chamber of Parliament. However, if the constitutional amendment concerns the term of the President of the Republic or the system of democratic government based on political pluralism, or the constitutional regime established by this constitution especially the republican form of the government or national sovereignty, the amendment must be passed by referendum, after adoption by each Chamber of Parliament. No amendment to this article is permitted."